Curtain Raiser

Raising the Whistleblower Issue, Colltalers 

The most important point made yesterday by WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, in his first public appearance since being granted asylum by Ecuador, was his appeal for the release of Pvt. Bradley Manning, imprisoned without formal charge since July 2010.
Assange, who’s accused of having published classified materials on the site, remains confined to the London Ecuadorian embassy. He may be also arguably to blame for Manning’s descent from decorated U.S. Army soldier, to an inmate accused of treason.
But, despite the hardship that Manning’s going through, it may be the U.S. government to ultimately come out of this sad episode with a black eye, for having kept him in jail for so long without a trial.
Assange’s denied both that Manning was the source of the leak, and that his own conviction in Sweden, in an unrelated rape case, has any merit. The case gave Swedish authorities the right to seek his deportation from the U.K., the base for his asylum bid.
Ecuador, despite granting Assange safe-heaven in South America, has been facing huge pressures from the U.K. and Sweden, and it’s his assumption that they’re doing it so by instructions of their most powerful political ally, the U.S. Time will tell.
The media-savvy Australian journalist has been riding these treacherous waters full of powerful sharks, with rare aplomb. Cynics say that, regardless of how it’ll all end, he’s already carved a relevant place for his personal brand of libertarian populism.
Cynics may say what they will but WikiLeaks has been nothing but a cautionary tale of the times, one about the fear of disclosure by the mighty, even when the essence of such disclosure has little substance.
The material published by major newspapers of the world, despite offering a privileged view of the inner workings of global diplomacy, have had hardly any impact on the national security of all nations involved, including the U.S.
In fact, going back to a recent past, much more harm was done to U.S.’s interests around the world when figures connected to the Bush administration leaked the name of an active CIA operative, on their way to make the case for the war in Iraq.
Unlike Manning, who seems to have acted on the sole call of his own conscience, the known and unknown parties responsible for that dark episode and damaging leak remain at large and may not ever face a day in jail for their treason.
The case, with all its lack of judicial backbone, has also a chilling effect on the U.S.’s moral standard around the world. In the future, it may as well represent one of the Obama administration’s lowest constitutional moments.
Ironically, President Obama’s bid for reelection may hang very much on his record on crucial issues, such as national security, human rights, the environment, and the economy, even though the latter usually gets most of the headlines.
In no democracy worth its constitution, the role of whistleblowers may be perceived as a national threat. On the contrary, the more liberated an individual feels about pointing what he or she sees as wrongdoings, the more the state can be effectively restrained from trampling the rights of all society.
Assange may be more than a talented opportunist, for his reporter’s knack for seizing the narrative and exposing the inner works of power. And even if he seems more concerned about his own biography and global projection than anything, he can’t be dismissed.
We have heard of practically no one else speaking on behalf of Bradley Manning, and paying a great deal of personal cost for doing so, as Assange’s done. Whether his self-aggrandizing ways will become the story is a theme for another post.
Under a completely different motivation, and from a radically reduced space, we share his appeal, and that of many civil rights organizations: President Obama, make a righteous decision and grant Pvt. Bradley Manning his freedom.
For a young, idealist American, who enlisted and fought in the wars of his time, and took the most basic stand guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, he’s already paid too heavy a price. The fact that the military has been unable to formally charge him with treason speaks volumes about their lack of conviction of his guilt and fear that he’ll emerge a hero for political freedom.
Neither of these are legal reasons enough to keep him a prisoner, destroy his reputation, and compromise his faith on the rule of the law, and on the democracy that this country was founded upon and has sworn to defend.
If you, reader, think you can help on this cause, please do. Have a great one. WC

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